A progressive alliance? Labour reportedly scales back campaign in Tiverton & Honiton by-election

Are the Lib Dems and Labour teaming up to unseat Tory MPs?

A photo of Ed Davey and a Photo of Keir Starmer

Two by-elections are due to be held in the coming weeks, both following the resignation of Tory MPs. One of them is Wakefield – a seat the Tories gained from Labour in the 2019 general election. That seat has been vacated after the sitting MP Imran Khan was convicted of sexual assaulting a 15-year-old. The second is Tiverton and Honiton, where Neil Parish resigned in April following allegations he watch pornography in the House of Commons on two separate occasions.

Wakefield is a key seat Labour will be hoping to regain. It is one of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that they Tories took from them in the last general election. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have high hopes for Tiverton & Honiton. Despite the Lib Dems having never won the seat before, it is a mostly rural constituency in Devon, and the party will be hopeful they can pull off another by-election victory akin to that which they managed in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham in 2021.

According to a report in Politics Home, the Labour Party is now scaling back its campaign in Tiverton & Honiton. That report claims that Labour frontbenchers have been instructed not to travel to the constituency for campaigning, and instead spend their time in Wakefield. The suggestion is that this will give both the Lib Dems and Labour the best shot of winning the seat they are seemingly better placed to.

Both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have consistently denied such an electoral agreement exists between the parties. This was emphasised in the run up to the 2022 local elections as senior Tories accused the party of forming an anti-Tory alliance.

The report has triggered a mixed response from commentators on the left. Some have welcomed the idea of collaboration to unseat Tory MPs. However, some Labour members have suggested that given the Labour Party came second in Tiverton & Honiton in the 2019 general election, giving up on the seat would ‘undermine’ the work of party activists. And of course, many have pointed out that this may not be indicative of any formal agreement between the two parties, but simply a strategic allocation of resource, with each party sending campaigners to the constituency where they have the best chance of winning.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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